My degree is actually in film, but I realized only afterward that it wasn’t what I wanted for myself, so I did what any sensible person would do—I street performed for a little while in Baltimore, playing bucket drums. Wanting something more stable, I luckily got hired on as a manager at a Books-A-Million. The rest is history, I guess. I just fell in love with books, the industry, and the people in it. My first taste of publishing was during an internship at MIT Press where I got to work in a few different departments. That affirmed publishing as the right place for me.
It took me a long while to figure out that there were entire careers behind every page of the books I was reading. It might sound odd, but it wasn’t until reading about Anastasia Steele working in a publishing house from “Fifty Shades of Gray” that I put it together (pretty sure that wasn’t the goal of the book, haha). After that, I spent more and more time looking not only at what I was reading, but also which publisher or imprint was producing it.
Like many people in publishing, I’ve just always loved reading and have always been interested in the entire book publishing process. I had my first internship in publishing when I studied abroad in college. That solidified my interest, and publishing became what I actively wanted to pursue. While that internship was in children’s editorial, I also worked as a publicity and editorial intern at PublicAffairs and was able to learn a lot more about the different sides of publishing, specifically in serious nonfiction. This led me to Beacon when I noticed an opening for an editorial assistant position last fall and applied.
I’ve always loved finding that perfect seed at the heart of a story, and thanks to my mom’s early guidance (thanks, Mom!), I’ve had my sights set on a career in publishing for a long time. I spent a few summers working as an intern at a literary agency where my main job was to dig through slush piles full of unsolicited manuscripts, trying to discover the Next Big Thing. It was a great way to practice spotting not just the obviously great stuff, but the stuff that could be great with a little more shaping. That’s where I really learned how to argue for a book’s potential.
Like many people who work at Beacon, I have always loved books and reading, and I studied English as my major in college. Though my mother worked as an editor for a number of years, I did not consider a job in publishing for myself until later in school. I was worried that a lack of publishing-specific internships might make it more difficult to get a job in this industry but figured it was worth a shot! I found the listing for my position at Beacon during one of many frantic late-night job searches as a second-semester senior.
With an undergraduate degree in design and six years of teaching in a centre for speech and drama, I needed something that would amalgamate my interest in design and literature. After some research, I realised the design and production department of the publishing industry is the place for me.
I’ve always loved reading, but I came to realize that the publishing industry’s lack of diversity was shaping the types of books that were picked up and being pushed on readers including myself. As a queer Black disabled woman who only rarely saw myself represented well or represented at all in my favorite medium, I got fed up and decided that I guess I gotta be part of that diversity myself.
When I first started college, I saw myself working in magazine publishing or doing political writing. But the more I talked to people in my classes about why they were passionate about book publishing, the more drawn to it I became. I always knew I wanted to work somewhere at the intersection between art and public policy, and Beacon felt like exactly that place. The mission statement and the books they have published line up perfectly with so many of the issues I’m passionate about.
It feels like a cliché, but I’ve always been interested in books and bookmaking. My dad ran a print shop in Cambridge for many years, so I had what felt like limitless access to paper in a rainbow of colors, giant staplers, laminators, and plastic binding. I made my first book when I was five or six and called it “Beautiful Birds,” a collection of bird illustrations for my grandma. When I started thinking about college ten years later, it was pretty much a toss-up whether I’d study writing or art. Designing books is a career where I get to be excited about both, so I set my heart on it early.
As most people in publishing will say, I’ve always really, really, loved reading. English was the only subject throughout school that I truly cared about, and the idea of getting to work with books all the time always seemed like an absolute dream to me.
It’s probably no surprise to hear that I, like much of the staff at Beacon, have always been a book nerd. My mom loves to embarrass me by recalling all the times she would check on me during childhood playdates, only to find me steadfastly ignoring my friends in favor of getting in one more chapter. It wasn’t until I landed a job at a local indie bookstore when I was seventeen that I became interested in the work that goes into transforming a person’s idea into a book on a shelf (shout-out to An Unlikely Story for continuing to indulge my coffee and book addictions after all these years!).
I feel like so many people I’ve spoken to who work in publishing have always known they wanted to be a part of this industry, but that’s definitely not the case for me! When I was in high school, I thought I wanted to pursue some sort of health science career, but then I had the classic “I don’t know what I want to do with my life” freak-out just before it was time to apply to schools. My mom encouraged me to think about the subjects I truly enjoyed studying, and those were always my English and Latin classes. I ended up connecting with a family friend who works in publishing, and she was the person who showed me how much you really can do with an English/Liberal Arts degree!
I want to say my passion for book publishing is because I have always loved to read, but that is just not true. When I was growing up, my family pretty much exclusively spoke Spanish, so when I started first grade and was asked to learn to read in English—a language that already felt out of place on my tongue—it was a BIG no from me. I hated it. It took me longer than the other kids to read a Magic Tree House book, and I was embarrassed, which put me off reading for pleasure for years. It wasn’t until sixth grade when I had an amazing English teacher—Shout-out to Emily! I went to a hippy-dippy middle school where we called our teachers by their first name—that I finally enjoyed reading.
I studied poetry in college and worked a handful of odd publishing jobs around New York. Through both good and bad experiences in that world, I developed a genuine passion for promoting work by both new and underrepresented writers. I was always That Person telling my friends, “You need to read this new book! You need to read this new poem!” Yelling about new books is fun, you know? It’s a celebration, which, for me, always felt like a natural extension of being a super nerdy reader. So when I applied to graduate schools and Emerson’s publishing program offered me a funded spot, I leapt at the chance to explore publishing outside of New York. After that, my path became a little circuitous.
While reading The Condemnation of Little B by Elaine Brown for a class, I saw that Beacon had published it and remembered a friend telling me about the organization and her great experience interning at Beacon. The Condemnation of Little B is one of the best and one of the most unorthodox books I have ever read. It combines memoir, investigative journalism, and history into a cohesive and rousing book, detailing the societal and historical events leading up to the arrest and incarceration of Michael Lewis. I knew that any publisher willing to publish such an unusual book with such pointed critiques of typically deified historical figures was exactly the type of publisher I wanted to work for.
I only realized publishing was a career path much later in my life—halfway through my undergrad degree in business administration, in fact. I’d always been a creative kid, but I never realized that the books I hoarded so ardently could be something that I could actually dedicate a career to. I finished up that business degree and went on to an apprenticeship program in an academic publishing house, where I trained in all their departments: editorial, production, accounting, etc. I was senior marketing executive there by the time I left, four years later, to do my masters in publishing at Emerson College.
I’ve always had a passing interest in publishing going as far back as my last couple years of high school when I joined (and then became the editor in chief of) my high school newspaper. And then when I was in college, I became a staff writer at our college paper in my first year and worked my way up to copyeditor in my last couple of years while working part time as an assistant at a boutique publishing house.
When I was looking for my first job in 1989, I knew I wanted to work in Boston but hadn’t decided on a specific career path. I applied to be an administrative assistant at several companies and chose Houghton Mifflin, partly because my grandfather had worked for the company in the 1930s as a printer operator. I was drawn to the legal and financial aspects of the business and worked in various roles that helped me further my career with the company and later to run my own freelance publishing services business. I kept in touch with many of my wonderful colleagues, including Cliff Manko.
It was a really long process for me! I was an English major in college. I loved reading and doing research, but I didn’t like sitting down and writing so I didn't consider a career in publishing. I went on to work in documentary production, but I found it too hard to make a living as a freelancer. I seriously considered becoming a librarian, but I realized that I wanted to be involved in some way with making books. So, I enrolled in the publishing certificate program at Emerson.
I was an English major in college and worked on online publications and art journals while there, because I wanted to be directly involved with spreading the good word of the works that I thought were important. I always knew I would be in publishing in some capacity after realizing I can manage paper deadlines, print deadlines, and still having that passion and drive to work on projects long term. I was a publicity intern at Beacon my last semester in college, and then I stayed on as an editorial intern after graduating and I’ve never left.